The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part III)

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1838 - Rochester in 1812 (showing first 'hotel') - Sketches of Rochester

Rochester in 1812 (showing first ‘hotel’). Source: Sketches of Rochester, 1838

Abraham Parrish had front row seats to watch his older brother Jasper become a success. And what a role model Jasper was. As a boy, Jasper had been captured by Indians in the immediate aftermath of the Wyoming Massacre in 1778, sold as a slave among various tribes, beaten mercilessly, nearly killed for a guinea when the British put a bounty on Yankee scalps, until he was finally bought by a Mohawk named “Captain Hill” for $20.29

Captain Hill so admired Jasper and Jasper so admired Captain Hill, that in 1780, the Captain formally adopted Jasper in a traditional Iroquois ceremony. In turn, Jasper came to call Captain Hill “father.” It was under the wing of this Mohawk family that Jasper learned customs, crafts, and, most important, the languages of the various tribes constituting the Iroquois Confederacy.30

It is this last attribute that allowed Jasper, along with fellow captive Horatio Jones, to be brought on as interpreters during the negotiations between the new nation of America and the Iroquois. Indeed, the Seneca showed their appreciation for what Jasper and Horatio did in a magnificent way. At the council of the Six Nations (another name used for the Iroquois alliance) that took place on the Genesee River during November of 1778, that highly regarded Farmer’s Brother said this of the two:

“Brothers: This whirlwind was so directed by the Great Spirit above, as to throw into our arms two of your infant children, Horatio Jones and Jasper Parrish. We adopted them into our families, and made them our children. We nourished them and loved them. They lived with us many years…”

“Brothers: They have returned and have for several years past been serviceable to us as interpreters; we still feel our hearts beat with affection for them, and now wish to fulfill the promise we made them for their services. We have therefore made up our minds to give them a seat of two square miles of land lying on the outlet of Lake Erie, beginning at the mouth of a creek, known as Suyguquoydes creek, running one mile from the Niagara river, up said creek, thence northerly, as the river runs, two mile, thence westerly, one mile to the river, thence of the river as the river runs, two miles to the place of beginning, so as to contain two square miles.”31

The land referenced was a large tract located on Buffalo Creek which would eventually become the 12th Ward in the northwest section of the City of Buffalo.

One final note about Jasper. The Seneca Chief Red Jacket and he were very close, despite the Chief’s differences at the negotiating table.32 In fact, as his namesake coat was wearing away to nothing, Jasper presented the Seneca leader with a new red jacket during the talks that ultimately lead to the Treaty of Canandaigua33, (it was this treaty which immediately led to the safe settlement of the Greater Western New York Region).

Much of Jasper’s most influential accomplishments occurred while Abraham was living with him in Canandaigua. Imagine all the notable figures of the time that stopped by to chat with Jasper. This feeling of comradery and hospitality must have left an impression on young Abraham.

Abraham married Hanna Shaw in Canandaigua on November 10, 1799. By 1805 the growing family had moved to what was then called “Norton’s Mills” (although it would get its official name West Mendon some time later). There, Abraham dabbled in many pursuits until his death in 1844. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s how he was described a few decades after he died:

“[H]e followed agricultural pursuits, and also engaged in various business enterprises, building, contracting. etc. He owned a boat on the Erie Canal, and was considered one of the leading business men of his day; a man loved and respected by all. His generosity and kindness can best be shown by stating the fact that he reared five orphan children besides his own family of fourteen. He was successful in realizing money in his business transactions, and freely used it for the promotion of any good work for the advancement of the people among whom his lot was cast.”34

It’s not clear who Abraham bought the property from, but we know it was located between North Main Street and Honeoye Creek immediately north of what is today the four corners of Honeoye Falls. According to Lucius Allen (son of Dr. Harry Allen who would eventually buy the property), this was part of a heavily wooded area first cleared by Zebulon Norton,35 the founding settler of Honeoye Falls (and the source of the name “Norton’s Mills”) and, coincidentally, also a native of Connecticut.

Like his father, Abraham served his country and earned the rank of Captain. He raised a company of volunteers and marched to Buffalo, where he fought in the Battle of Black Rock.36 This was very near to the land the Seneca gifted to Jasper. (Jasper, who had many real estate dealings, perhaps concerned of the risk the War posed to this land, sold his land on Buffalo Creek to Augustus Porter and Peter B. Porter on August 25, 1814 for the sum of $5,000.37)

But it was what Abraham did just before he joined the War of 1812 that holds the most significance to us. Abraham, like his brother, was quite busy when it came to real estate. On or about 1810, Abraham Parrish erected the first tavern in what was subsequently to become the Village of Honeoye Falls. Perhaps he was inspired to do this because of his experience living with Jasper in Canandaigua. Maybe it was because his grandfather Isaac kept a tavern in Windham a half century earlier.38

Whatever motivated him to do so, he picked the right time to build the tavern. Located on the corner of what today is East Street and North Main, Abraham’s tavern would have occupied a key position on the route taken by travelers going to the soon-to-be bustling village of Rochester. It also served as a way station for emigres heading west.

And he probably picked the right time to sell. Abraham listed a “tavern stand” for sale “near Norton’s Mills, in Lima” in the 1818 Ontario Repository (a newspaper serving Canandaigua). It’s not clear (yet) if this is the same tavern or a different one (research continues), but we know by the 1820’s the tavern, under new ownership, burned to the ground.

And from those ashes rose the then two-story version of the brick building called the Falls Hotel which, after renovations, became the three-story Wilcox Hotel. The building still stands today (as the Masonic Temple).

From its very beginnings, though, as Abraham Parrish’s tavern, the site remains at the very center of the community that grew around it.

The author would like to express his great appreciation to Diane Ham, Mendon Town Historian, who helped provide vital clues in his quest to discover Abraham Parrish. Among the most valuable of the clues was the name of T. Sam Parrish, great-great-granddaughter of Abraham Parrish. “Sam” graciously shared much of her decade long research into the Parrish family and offered direction regarding where to research original sources. For this, the author is extremely grateful.

1Autobiography of Gurdon Wallace, by Gurdon Wallace Wattles, Scribner Press, 1922
2Ibid
3geni.com website, accessed April 4, 2021, https://www.geni.com/people/John-Parish/6000000000897682025
4History of Windham County Connecticut, Volume I, by Ellen D. Larned, printed by Charles Hamilton, Worcester, MA, 1874 p. 555
5History of Wyoming: In a Series of Letters, from Charles Miner, to His Son William Penn Miner, L. Crissy, Publisher, Philadelphia, 1845, Appendix p. 79
6The Massacre of Wyoming, Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden, Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1895, p. xi
7Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, Vol. II, by John F. Waston, 1850, p. 125
8The Massacre of Wyoming, p. xiii
9 Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, Vol. II, p.125
10The Massacre of Wyoming, p. xiv
11History of Wyoming, p. 226
12The Massacre of Wyoming, p. xiv
13Ibid, p. xvi
14Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, Vol. II, p.127
15Portrait And Biographical Album, Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1888, pp. 294
16The Michael Shoemaker Book, by Williams T. Blair, International Textbook Press, Scranton, PA, 1924, p.537
17Connecticut, by Alfred Van Dusen, Random House, New York,1961, p.124
18Ibid, p.124
19Common Sense, Thomas Paine, 1776, 1859 reprint by Honyoake and Co., London, p33
20The Historical Record of Wyoming Valley, The Wilkes-Barre Record, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1897 p. 169
21Ibid, p.169
22 History of Wyoming, p. 471
23 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/36890095/stephen-parrish, accessed April 12, 2021
24 History of Wyoming, p. 471
25The History of Genesee Country, Volume I, Chapter VIII, “The White Man Takes Possession, 1783-1842,” by Arthur Caswell Parker, M.S., S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1925, p. 262)
26“Jasper Parrish: A pioneer of a different sort,” by Lynn Paulson, Daily Messenger, September 2, 2019
27Ibid.
28Portrait And Biographical Album, p. 294
29Democrat and Chronicle, Thursday, Dec. 26, 1901, p.4
30Ibid
31The Buffalo Commercial, Saturday, April 11, 1891, p. 11
32Democrat and Chronicle, Thursday, Dec. 26, 1901, p.4
33History of the Indian Tribes of North American with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes, Thomas L. McKenney, Published by Frederick W. Greenough, 1838, p.4
34Portrait And Biographical Album, p. 294
35The Honeoye Falls Weekly Times, Thursday, January 23, 1930, pp.1, 8
36Portrait And Biographical Album, p. 294
37 The Buffalo Commercial, Saturday, April 11, 1891, p. 11
38The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. LXIII, January 1909, Boston, MA, p. 367

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